Food For Thought: The Healthy Functions of Ginger

Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale, Family: Zingiberaceae (ginger)
If you have ever reached for a glass of Ginger ale for an upset stomach, you are on the right track!  Ginger is an ancient remedy for upset stomach, indigestion, motion sickness and cramps, and that's just the beginning. This wonderful food additive can also help reduce fevers, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and help remove toxins from the body. On the news front, important new research from the University of Michigan has indicated that Ginger has caused ovarian cancer cell death in laboratory tests, and may also stop cancer cells from growing.
Ginger is an exotic, perennial plant with highly aromatic flowers that grows to a height of three feet. It originated in tropical Asia, but has also continued to play an important role in Asian medicine for 2,500 years.  Ginger is rich in volatile oils, beta-carotene, essential fatty acids, amino acids, resins, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, B-vitamins, vitamins A and C and gingerols.

Functions of ginger

Ginger has pungent and warming qualities that make it useful in medicine. It contains 24 distinct anti-inflammatory compounds.
It has a stimulating effect on the heart and circulation which creates a feeling of warmth and wellbeing. It is recommended for those with bad circulation, chilblains and cramps. It is also used for the treatment of angina.
  •   It restores vitality, particularly for those feeling the cold in winter.
  •   As a gargle it may be effective in the relief of a sore throat.
  •   Hot ginger tea promotes perspiration which assists in bringing down a fever and helps to clear catarrh.
  •   It has a stimulating and expectorant effect on the lungs. This assists to expel phlegm and relieve coughs and chest infections.
  •   It is a warming aid to the digestive system as it invigorates the stomach and intestines. It encourages the secretion of digestive enzymes. It moves stagnating food and thus assists in the release of accumulated toxins. This action increases general health and enhances immunity.
  •   It relieves nausea and vomiting, settles the stomach, sooths digestion and calms wind.
  •   The pain relieving and relaxing effects in the digestive tract relieve colic and spasm.
  •   In the uterus it promotes menstruation and relieves painful ovulation and periods.
  •   It also inhibits clotting and thins the blood, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  •   Externally it is the base of many fibrositis and muscle sprain treatments.

Notes on ginger

It is not recommended for those who do not tolerate heat well or for people with gastritis or peptic ulcers. Small amounts used in cooking are generally safe.
Do not use in large doses if you have gallstones, as ginger's effects may stimulate the gall bladder, worsening symptoms and causing unnecessary pain.
Ginger's components may interfere with normal blood clotting. As a precaution, suspend the use of this herb at least one week before surgery. Do not use with other plants or herbal products that may interfere with normal blood clotting, such as garlic, ginseng or ginkgo. Do not use with drugs that interfere with blood clotting, such as aspirin, heparin or warfarin (coumadin).
Try not to take too often or in too strong a dose while pregnant.
Very high doses may cause a reduction of blood sugar levels.

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